Dancing on the streets - just what the doctor ordered!

It seems plans are afoot to provide dance classes on the National Health Service in Britain in an attempt to improve the country's fitness levels and halt a looming national obesity crisis.

According to reports street-dancing and tango classes are just a few of the ideas being considered for funding by NHS trusts and others include trampolining, boxing, skipping and organised walking classes.

Doctors will be asked to assess the fitness levels of those patients whose lifestyles they are concerned about and complete questionnaires recording how active they are.

A series of pilot projects around the country has already demonstrated that physical activity interventions were cost effective and saved the NHS money in the long term.

Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, is expected to publish a new report showing that prescribing exercise is a cost-effective way of improving health.

But how the activities will be funded is unclear and appears it will be a case of GPs making clear to their patients that all forms of exercise, not just working out in a gym, have their value.

The report to be published this week is an evaluation of pilot programmes backed by the NHS, Sport England and the Countryside Agency to try to encourage people with a sedentary lifestyle to take more exercise.

The £2.5 million local exercise pilot programme promoting "exercise on prescription" in local areas which began in 2004, have say some, been poorly funded and short on enthusiasm from GPs.

It has been evaluated by Leeds Metropolitan University which apparently found that GP referrals to exercise and walking classes worked for older adults, while swimming worked better for younger people.

Although the evidence suggests that this kind of intervention can reduce the number of inactive people by about a third and all those involved increased their activity levels to some degree, critics say there is little evidence that the programmes are cost-effective.

The report is expected to suggest how physical activity interventions should be planned and organised in future with a broad mix of skills needed to make them work.

Such schemes are intended to be quite simply 'starters' in the hope that people will then be motivated to continue without support.

The report is expected to conclude that more investment would be justified, as persuading people to be more active saves money in the long run.

As many as two thirds of adults are now overweight in Britain and in the last decade the number of obese six-year-olds has risen to 8.5 per cent and trebled among 15-year-olds.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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